Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
INTERURBAN TRACKS LAID 100 YEARS AGO
Albion Recorder, October 25, 2001, pg. 7
Extra copies of the booklet from my recent tour “The German Hill Tour of Riverside Cemetery” are available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce. Want to know more about Albion history? Over 150 of my past articles about Albion history with some fantastic photographs are available on the www.albionmich.com internet site. Let your out-of-town relatives know about this internet site devoted to Albion.
We recently saw the paving bricks on W. Erie St. removed as part of the current repaving project, and next year the paving bricks on E. Erie St. in historic downtown Albion will also be removed and replaced with ordinary asphalt. If you look at the bricks on E. Erie St., you will see a “scar” running down the center of the street several feet wide. This is where the bricks were taken up and replaced in order to remove the interurban tracks in 1930.
It was exactly 100 years ago this month that the interurban tracks were laid between Albion and Marshall. First known as the “Jackson-Battle Creek Traction Company,” the electric railway was the latest fad of the times. The interurban was a convenient way to travel between communities, as it made frequent stops at popular places not only in the city, but in the country as well. The tracks generally followed present-day Michigan Avenue between the cities and locally went down the center of E. Erie, S. Superior and W. Cass Sts., northwards across a trestle over the Kalamazoo River and the railroad tracks, and headed west out of town on Austin Avenue. In Parma headed west, the tracks left Michigan Avenue in there and hugged the Michigan Central tracks to Bath Mills, then forged its own route across what today is the main center path of the Albion College Nature Center, and along “Farley Drive” north of the athletic concrete wall, where it joined E. Erie St.
After the laying of the rails were completed to Battle Creek, regular service began on May 17, 1903, and service to Jackson on June 13. The local passenger station was first located in the center of downtown Albion where the recently-closed Fedco “dollar store” annex was at 221 S. Superior St. Later the depot was located on E. Erie St. where the old Consumer’s Power office building sits today. There was a spur track that led towards the Market Place where the Interurban freight depot was located (the back portion of the old Consumer’s building that is positioned diagonally and used for trucks) and you can still see the “scar” in the Erie St. bricks where this spur started.
In looking through my archives I came across a 1921 Interurban ticket listing all of the “stops” the Interurban could make between cities, depending on whether or not it was a “limited” or a “local.” These could be considered analagous to today’s big city bus stops at various points along any particular route. Many of these were just crossings along a road, with the “stop” named for the farmer who owned the nearest farmhouse. The 1906 plat maps of Marengo and Sheridan Townships will show the names of the owners of the land through which the interurban passed. Most of our readers will not recognize these names, so I have added brackets explaining what they are known as today.
From Bath Mills east of Albion in Concord Township headed west through Albion to Marshall we find listed in this order: Bath Mills, Bayn, Finley, Murdock Rd. (actually Newburg Rd. where the interurban cut through Gilson Murdock’s property), Mingo St., Albion, Boyd [A.T. Boyd, farmer on Austin Ave.], Taylorville [Interurban repair barns west of 27 Mile Rd], Hurley Rd. [B Drive North at Michigan Avenue], Montcalm Lake (a popular resort, now part of Starr Commonwealth), Fifley Road [26 Mile Rd.], Mack [25½ Mile Rd.], Emery [Historic Emery-Waterburg house], Clough View [24 Mile Road], Lake [Romondo Lake residence], Marengo, Vernor, Pierce School [22½ Mile Rd.], Patterson Rd. [S. 22 Mile Rd.], Coleman Rd. [N. 22 Mile Rd.], Ferguson [farmer on south side], Cemetery Crossing [Marengo Pioneer Cemetery along old U.S. 12], Cooper, Layhers [20 Mile Rd.], Church [farmer north side west of 20 Mile Rd.], Perrett No. 1. [historic house before Rice Creek] Rice Creek, Duck Lake Road [Partello Road], Marshall.
From the Archives this week we present an unusual photograph of a derailed interurban car in front of the Commonwealth Power Company generating station on E. Erie St., circa 1907. The derailing occurred where the spur track met the main line. This building, originally the Red Mill, had been converted to water-powered electric generation at the turn of the century. It burned in 1913 and the present abandoned powerhouse building was erected on the site. Our second photograph shows the displaced passengers patiently waiting in front of the Commonwealth office. Special thanks to Doretta Wilson for these photographs.
Derailed Interurban Car
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic